The Great Pacific Garbage Patch wins the medal for the world’s biggest landfill. Located in the northern Pacific Ocean, some may argue that the Great Pacific Trash Gyre should not be included in a World’s Largest Landfills list, but few will debate that in sheer size and mass, the Patch is the world’s largest repository of trash. Eighty percent of the trash comes from land, and 90 percent of the refuse is plastic.
The floating Patch trash doesn’t come from proper garbage removal, but rather consists of refuse that is blown or dumped into the world’s waterways. When it reaches the ocean, the trash rides the ocean’s currents. Estimates of the Patch’s size vary. Some estimate that the Patch is the size of Texas. Others say that it may be twice the size of the continental United States.
Several countries have claimed the dubious honor of having the world’s biggest landfill. The movie Waste Land shed light on the 3,000 human scavengers that make their living by recycling around 200 tons of trash from the Jardim Gramacho Landfill near Rio de Janiero in Brazil. The Brazilian government claims that Jardim Gramacho is the size of about 247 football fields.
South Korea claims that at around 5,000 acres, their Sudokwon Landfill is the largest. Sudokwon handles the garbage removal from Seoul, hauling in about 18,000 tons of trash from the city each day. Until very recently, Mexico also laid claim to the world’s largest landfill. Mexico’s Bordo Poniente 927-acre landfill once took in over 12,000 tons of refuse each day, and the site has 79 million tons of trash.
Last December, however, Mexico City’s government shut the Bordo Poniente Landfill down. The city now aims to use the methane gas produced by the landfill to build a power plant that could generate enough electricity to supply up to 35,000 homes. Mexico is not the only country to realize that landfills are more than receptacles for trash. America’s former largest landfill, the Fresh Kills landfill in New York, is now being re-imagined as a great park. A portion of the new park opened last year. At the time that the landfill closed, the landfill’s tallest mound stood higher than the Statue of Liberty. Landfills can be reclaimed and repurposed.
The biggest landfill in the US is currently the Apex Regional Landfill near Las Vegas, Nevada, pulling in 9,000 tons of refuse each day. At 2,200 acres, it’s is expected to be serviceable for many decades to come. Like many municipalities in the US, Las Vegas is building a power plant that will generate 11 megawatts of electricity from landfill gas. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 520 of America’s 2,300 landfills are capturing gas and transforming it into electricity, enough to provide power for around 688,000 homes. Power produced from landfills accounts for about one percent of the nation’s gas-generated power.
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